business news in context, analysis with attitude

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sold $1.43 billion worth of merchandise the day after Thanksgiving, a new company record.

Last year on the same day, Wal-Mart generated about $1.25 billion in sales. A company statement said that the increase was attributable both to increased customer count and a higher average transaction.

Top-selling categories included home electronics, small appliances, and toys.

The Wal-Mart numbers seem to be in line with national trends, as discounters did well and other retail venues met modest sales expectations.

According to one tracking service, total retail sales for the two days following Thanksgiving were up 10.9 percent compared with a year ago.
KC's View:
The short version: customers are looking for deals. And will continue to do so, right up until December 24.

The interesting thing about the Wal-Mart record is that the Bentonville Behemoth probably would prefer not to have it. We once heard a Wal-Mart executive say that the day after Thanksgiving is, in fact, the company’s least favorite day of the year -- because it is the one day the company has to go off message,

Think about it. All year long, Wal-Mart brags about its low prices…and then, the day after Thanksgiving, it has to engage in a one-day sale that suggests that it indeed can go even lower if it has to. The Wal-Mart exec told us that the company feels compelled to lower prices this one day because everybody else does, but that if it had its druthers, it would be just another day from a marketing perspective.

This suggests a couple of things. One, while it is generally believed that Wal-Mart sets the rules of the game, in this case at least it allows other retailers to set the rules. (This is interesting, though it may not be helpful to companies trying to compete with the Bentonville Behemoth.)

It also is a good lesson in marketing discipline. Every retailer, it seems to us, should have a “message” -- the core foundation on which the business is built. It can be customer service, it can be best produce, it can be great meat, or virtually anything. But having and knowing that message, and communicating it to consumer relentlessly, is absolutely critical to success.

Just ask Wal-Mart.